Tortoises are great for those who want an exotic pet but don’t want the hassle of caring for a more active animal. If you are looking for an attractive, long-term pet that is relatively low maintenance, then a tortoise might be the perfect fit. Tortoises are gentle, quiet, and can be surprisingly affectionate. But with so many types of tortoises to choose from, it can take time to know what is the best tortoise to have as a pet that suits you best.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of tortoises, the advantages of each one, and the best tortoise to have as a pet. We will help you determine which tortoise is the best fit for your family and home. Let’s get started!
About Tortoise Pet
Tortoises can be an excellent choice if you are interested in reptiles and want to keep one as a pet. They have particular care requirements but make up for their extra need for care with their unique personalities and gentle charm.
If you are still determining whether a tortoise would make a good pet for your lifestyle, diving in and researching what it takes to have a tortoise as a pet is essential. Looking into some primary habitats, the correct food, water requirements, and sources of warmth, like UV lamps, can be a great start.
As a new tortoise owner, you will also need to know more about the species of tortoise that make the best pets. Besides, you need to know what is the best tortoise to have as a pet. Some tortoises will be easier to care for than others, and some breeds are best suited to beginners.
Based on records from the Encyclopedia Britannica, roughly 49 species of tortoise have been identified worldwide. Ten tortoise species are excellent for beginners when we look at species that work well for pets.
The 10 Best Tortoise Species to Have As a Pet
With their long lifespan and low maintenance, tortoises make lovely pets. But, with so many different species available, it can be challenging to know which one is best for you. To help you decide, here is a list of the 10 best tortoise species to have as a pet.
1. Greek Tortoise
Southern Europe, North Africa, and Southwest Asia.
High fiber and low protein diet (collard greens, endive, fresh parsley, dandelion greens, zucchini, broccoli, and shredded carrots).
Greek tortoises are some of the most flexible tortoises in the world for their living arrangements. They are easy to care for and some of the easiest to find at a local reptile dealer. The species are known for a steep curve in their carapace and are often dark black or darker tan.
In fact, they get their name from Greek Mosaic tiles. Greek tortoises thrive as pets with some space and edible plants that can grow to 5-8 inches. The only thing owners should avoid with Greek tortoises is handling them often, as they may bite. They like to stick to their environment and need ample room to hide and roam their enclosure.
Why Do Greek Tortoises Make Good Pets?
The Greek tortoise’s diminutive stature and curious character make it one of the most well-known kinds. Although they dislike being handled, they are highly amiable with their owners. They don’t need a lot of space but make sure they have some native flora that is safe for tortoises and a decent substrate.
2. Pancake Tortoise
Dry grasses and vegetation, including succulents. A few protein sources are from seeds, nuts, and sometimes insects.
This species of tortoise is named after its shape. They have long and flat bodies and shells, one of the world’s flattest tortoise species. This tortoise species has recently become more difficult to find due to exportation laws concerning their habitats in Tanzania and Kenya.
In addition, North American breeding programs make sure this species is available as it ranks highly among the best tortoise species to have as a pet. They are easy to care for and great at climbing. They can pack away many fruits and vegetables even with their tiny bodies. They grow 6-7 inches long and are only 1 inch tall.
Why Do Pancake Tortoises Make Good Pets?
The pancake tortoise gets along well with other turtles because it is not aggressive, and even if it bites, it won’t hurt them. Besides, they will get along as long as there is enough food for everyone.
3. Russian Tortoise
Russia and Central Asia.
High fiber diet (hay, dark lettuces, and greens such as collards, kale, turnip, mustard, and dandelion greens, along with various vegetables, including squash, corn, peppers, carrots, prickly pear cactus, and sweet potatoes).
Russian tortoises are famous because they are easy to find, inexpensive, and compact. This species can often live over 40 years and grows 6-9 inches in length. Their shells are known for being rounder and green to brown.
Moreover, they need a basking spot and light as they prefer warmer temperatures and do not like excessive humidity or moisture. They require 2-3 feet enclosures, and most owners usually pick up a mixing tub or large bin to keep them as they grow.
Why Do Russian Tortoises Make Good Pets?
When properly cared for, they make excellent first reptiles since they are pretty active and receptive to their owners. Compared to other reptile species, they require less maintenance and live lengthy lives—often exceeding 40 years.
4. Indian Star Tortoise
India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Grass and hay (timothy hay, Bermuda grass, orchard grass, ryegrass, alfalfa, and fescue).
This tortoise species is a bit more expensive than some other beginner tortoises because of their lifespan. Many members of this species can live for up to 80 years. This species grows up to 15 inches in length.
Moreover, they are native to Sri Lanka and like the temperature in their enclosure at 80-90 degrees F. They look similar to the Russian tortoise with a green-to-brown color and have an equal temperament. The Indian Star Tortoise is an excellent beginner tortoise as it can be kept indoors easily in a 3×2 foot enclosure with heating lamps.
Why Do Indian Star Tortoises Make Good Pets?
Indian Star tortoises are not territorial like some other kinds of tortoises. Additionally, you may shelter numerous of them together because of their modest size. They aren’t mountaineers. To ensure their happiness, please keep in mind that Indian star tortoises dislike handling.
5. Leopard Tortoise
Central and Southern Africa.
Fresh grass and leaves (prickly pear cactus pads, mulberry, and hibiscus leaves).
This is one of the larger species on our list of the best tortoises to have as a pet. They grow up to 28 inches as adults and are the fourth largest species of tortoise worldwide. What makes this species so desirable for pet owners is its shell pattern. They have a base color in light brown or tan and spots like a leopard in black. They like staying warm and prefer basking spots at 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besies, Leopard tortoises want larger enclosures with fresh grass for grazing. Their shells are tall, making them best suited for temperature-controlled outdoor enclosures or large indoor enclosures.
Why Do Leopard Tortoises Make Good Pets?
Leopard tortoises are passive, slow-moving animals like other tortoises. They are not the most exciting pets but are typically kind. Leopard tortoises are not known for biting people, though a larger tortoise might mistake a finger for food. Still, they are a great pet choice to have.
6. Kleinmann’s Tortoise (Egyptian Tortoise)
Egypt, Libya, and Israel.
High fiber diet (dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, Brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette, and bell pepper).
This species is scarce but a delight to have as a pet. Kleinmann’s tortoises are classified as endangered species, but breeding programs are available. They can live up to 50 years and are one of the world’s smallest species of Tortoise. The maximum size for this species is usually just 5 inches. This species requires a bit of a temperature balancing act with a spot for them to cool using sphagnum moss or a humid hiding spot.
Why Do Kleinmann’s Tortoises Make Good Pets?
They are better indoor pets, particularly for those with small yards. Only a 4-square-foot enclosure is needed for Kleinmann’s tortoises. They also need humidity between 20 and 30 percent, temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, and UVA and UVB rays.
7. Marginated Tortoise
Greece, Italy, and the Balkans.
High fiber diet (dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, Brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette, and bell peppers).
This tortoise species is named for its marginal scutes. They are some of the most friendly and docile tortoises in the world and one of the largest European tortoise species. They can reach up to 15 inches when fully grown and love to spend time outside.
Warm and sunny days are their favorite, but they can be kept quite comfortable in an enclosure of 16 square feet or more and temperature control of 80-95 degrees F. They can live to roughly 50 and are excellent family pets.
Why Do Marginated Tortoises Make Good Pets?
Marginated tortoises are among the most popular ones maintained as pets by families, and we can’t say enough good things about them. They are active during the day and rarely retreat. Tortoises enjoy venturing outside of their home and will happily spend a bright summer afternoon wandering in the garden.
8. Hermann’s Tortoise
Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, and Bosnia.
Mix of grasses and vegetables (dandelion, clover, honeysuckle, leafy salads, watercress, curly kale, Brussel tops, spring greens, coriander, parsley, rocket, carrot, parsnip, courgette, and bell peppers).
This pet remains one of the most popular among reptile breeders. They have known for their personalities as well as their attractive shell patterns. Their shells are golden or orange and often have a sharp contrast in the body with black bars or striping patterns. This species does well indoors or outdoors, and it likes a basking location set at 90-95 degrees. They are excellent for beginners and a favorite among tortoise households. They live for roughly 70 years and grow 6-8 inches in length.
Why Do Hermann’s Tortoises Make Good Pets?
The Hermann is noted for its superb temperament and is docile and sensitive. They are renowned for their adorable personalities and distinctive shell designs. They also have a special claw resembling a horn at their tails’ end. Both indoor and outdoor enclosures are ideal for Hermann tortoises.
9. Red-Footed Tortoise
South America from Panama to Argentina.
Plants with small amounts of animal matter (leaves, grasses, fungi, small invertebrates, fruits, and flowers).
A species native to South and Central America, this is a rising star for tortoise pet owners. They get their name from their distinct red skin color, and their scales are spotted. Their carapace is subtle and usually darker compared to their legs and spotted pattern which can extend to their face. They can live for roughly 50 years and grow to approximately 14 inches in length. They need good airflow and like a hot basking temperature of 100 degrees.
Why Do Red-Footed Tortoises Make Good Pets?
The red-footed tortoise is a fantastic tortoise variation for just about any prospective owner. They certainly are among the best tortoises for captivity due to their calm disposition, low maintenance requirements, and attractive look. Just be careful to provide your Red-Footed tortoise the right environment and food.
10. Sulcata Tortoise
the Sahara Desert and the Sahel.
High fiber diet (grass cuttings, cheatgrass, clover, edible flowers, and shrubs).
For prospective tortoise owners seeking a larger tortoise, this is one of the largest species in the world. This species can reach up to 100 lbs and 30 inches. They like to dig, sustained chiefly on grass and leafy greens. They need a large enclosure of roughly 80 feet which can be easier outdoors.
They are recommended as beginner tortoises because they love human interaction and can be highly intelligent. The Sulcata tortoise can live for over 80 years and is the most popular pet tortoise species in the world.
Why Do Sulcata Tortoises Make Good Pets?
With their owners, Sulcatas are reputed to be exceptionally social. They can establish bonds with their owners, are able to identify them, and have distinctive personalities. Even for families with young children, the Sulcata tortoise is a beautiful pet because it is calm and exciting.
Choosing Tortoise Pet Tips and Tricks
It is essential to do your research before bringing a tortoise into your home. In this article, we will provide helpful tips on how to choose the right tortoise for your family.
1. Research the Species
Research the different types of tortoises to determine which is best for you. Different species of tortoise have different dietary requirements, which you must be aware of in order to maintain a healthy diet for your pet. Besides, it will ensure you are able to provide a suitable home for your pet tortoise.
2. Consider Size
Consider the size of the tortoise you want to get. It determines the size of the enclosure and the amount of care and attention needed. Smaller tortoises, such as Russian and Greek tortoises, require less space and can be easier to care for in a home setting. Larger species, such as Sulcata or Leopard tortoises, require much larger enclosures and specialized care.
Know the environment that the tortoise needs. Most tortoises need a humid environment with plenty of sunlight. You can also ensure that their enclosure is safe and secure and that you are providing them with the required enrichment.
Research the care that the species of tortoise you are considering needs. Certain tortoises may require permits or other special requirements to be kept as a pet. Knowing these requirements before purchasing a tortoise can help avoid potential problems down the road.
Find out what the tortoise’s diet should be. Most tortoises eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and some proteins. A healthy diet is key to their long-term health, and it is essential to understand what they need to eat in order to provide them with the nutrients they need.
Make sure to find a qualified veterinarian to properly care for your pet. The vet can also advise you on how to best care for the tortoise and provide you with information on any potential health problems the tortoise may face.
Make sure that the tortoise fits into your lifestyle. Tortoises need daily care and attention. Understanding the lifestyle of a tortoise before bringing one into your home will help ensure that it gets the care it needs and will ultimately lead to a long, healthy life.
So, what is the best tortoise to have as a pet? The answer comes from your family and their preferences. Any species we have covered would work well for a new tortoise owner, but they each have their requirements for care, sizes, and characteristics. Some families may not have the space to house a Sulcata tortoise, whereas others may prefer the markings of the Leopard tortoise. Each species has its qualities and slightly different care requirements.
Any species on this list can be found through North American breeding programs, and they all come with detailed care profiles that can be found online. If you consider a Tortoise a pet, try out one of these incredible species above!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much does a pet tortoise cost?
The cost of a tortoise depends on the species and where you are getting it from. Some popular species, like the Sulcata Tortoise, can be purchased for $100-200 at a pet store, and breeds like the Indian star tortoise can be more expensive with their rarity and cost $500-3000 based on their markings.
What does a tortoise eat?
Tortoises are herbivores and need to get leafy greens as they would find in the wild. Although tortoises may love fruit for a snack, they should primarily forage on lettuce, grass, and healthy flowers like sunflowers.
What do I need to own a pet tortoise?
A pet tortoise will need a space large enough for it. Many people start with a 2-foot by 3-foot enclosure or 50-gallon tank. Including a UVB bulb and lamp fixture, night bulb or ceramic heater, thermometer, a spray bottle for misting, a fogger, carpet or moss, a place to hide, a food dish, a small water dish, food, and supplements like calcium powder.